Weather is a very complex subject to understand, so it will not be discussed in detail here, but the primary document to read for a basic understanding of aviation weather is advisory circular AC 00-6A entitled, "Aviation Weather." A copy may be purchased at many commercial vendors or it may be downloaded for free. The free download of this document however, unlike the other documents listed below, consists of scanned images which are difficult to read and make for large files. The document is split up into 6 separate files of 3 MB each to make them more manageable. I would recommend a hard copy over the download version, but, if you like, it may be downloaded at:Aviation Weather (AC 00-6A).
Reading Aviation Weather Products
Once you have a basic understanding of aviation weather principles, you will need to learn how to read the various aviation weather products available. There are several resources I can direct you to that will help you learn how to read or improve your ability to read aviation weather products. The primary document for learning about the use of aviation weather products current at the time of this writing (March 2012) is Advisory Circular AC 00-45G, Change 1, which was published in July 2010, and is entitled, "Aviation Weather Services." This document may be purchased from many commercial suppliers or may be downloaded free at:Aviation Weather Services (AC 00-45G).
Here are some links to more tools that may be helpful in learning how to read aviation weather products.
- METAR/TAF Key (PDF)
- National Weather Service Glossary
- Weather Contractions - Decode (PDF)
- Weather Contractions - Encode (PDF)
- ICAO Weather Location Identifiers
Variations in Alaska
The basic METAR and TAF products are the same in Alaska as they are in the rest of the U.S., however, many of the other products are not the same. Alaska is by far the largest state in the U.S., too big for one area forecast to cover. There are three area forecasts that cover Alaska; Juneau (JNU), Anchorage (ANC) and Fairbanks (FAI). JNU and FAI are issued in two parts and ANC is issued in three parts. Each of those in turn are split up into a total of 25 forecast areas. These areas are described in the above mentioned Aviation Weather Services handbook and are depicted in even greater detail on the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit (AAWU) website.
As you visit their website also study their graphical products which are somewhat different from similar products covering the lower 48. For example, we generally do not use a surface analysis chart because at the time the chart is issued, the valid time is already too old to be very useful. Apparently it takes longer to produce the chart for Alaska than it does for the lower 48. We use a forecast surface map which is closer to current time. Another difference is that prognostic (prog) charts in Alaska do not show precipitation. The lower 48 combines their 12 and 24 hour prog charts into one 4-panel chart where we have only one 12 hour and one 24 hour chart (both charts are single panel).
Last updated: Tuesday, October 19, 2021